Fall hazards can be found on every construction site and many times, multiple factors/hazards may contribute to a fall. A fall can be caused by something as seemingly insignificant as an extension cord or to something as obvious as Workers out on a narrow beam hundreds of feet above the ground with no protection. The most common sources of fall injuries are:
(2) Unprotected Edges & Openings;
If you are seeking more information on how to handle an injury claim after falling from heights, contact the Toledo construction accident lawyers in our office immediately by calling, or by chatting live on our website.
Fall Hazards on Construction Sites
There are many areas of a worksite that present a fall hazard to workers. To manage these risks, it is important for Contractors to identify, assess, and control all job site locations, activities, equipment, and tasks that create a fall hazard.
Fall hazards are foreseeable. They can be identified and the risk eliminated or controlled. To identify fall hazards, a Contractor should conduct thorough workplace inspections, consult with workers and other contractors on site, and, in some instances, with technical experts. Particular attention should be given to areas where exposure to falls exist or are expected to exist over the course of the project. At a minimum, inspecting and assessing the workplace for potential hazards should include determining:
- Stability/strength of surfaces/work area/structures
- Slip potentials on surfaces
- Slope of work surfaces
- Safe movement on, to, and from work area
- The amount of movement and congestion on the site
- Surface/level changes in work area
- Exposed edges/opening in floor or wall to another level
- Adequacy of lighting
- What conditions (weather or otherwise) the work area is exposed to
- The suitability and condition of equipment and tools
- The suitability and condition of footwear and other personal protective equipment
- The adequacy of knowledge and training of workers to safely perform the tasks
- Adequacy of safety plan and procedures to address potential safety hazards
Where the workplace presents different or distinct work areas or fall hazards, the Contractor should not merely carry out a “generic” assessment, but should specifically assess each individual hazard a worker may be exposed to.
Types of Accidents
Understanding what a “fall” is, at least in its broadest sense, is not obvious to everyone. However, having a thorough understanding is necessary to providing thorough safety measures to protect workers.
Breaking apart the generic term of “fall” is helpful to better understanding the actual hazard that creates a risk of falling. Typically “falls” fall into one of three categories:
- Falls from high-levels: Workers who perform tasks at an elevation (generally higher than 6 feet) are at risk of falling from that elevation. Falls can occur when workers are up on structures, on scaffolds, ladders, or in bucket trucks.
- Falls at same-level: “Slip and trip” falls are one of the leading causes of job injuries across all industries and are particularly common in the construction industry. Slip and falls account for nearly 40% of all non-fatal fall injuries in construction. These types of falls can occur when a worker unexpectedly loses traction with the surface he is walking on, or inadvertently comes into contact with an uneven surface or an object that disrupts his balance.
- Falls into lower-levels: Often, construction workers are required to perform tasks in the vicinity of a hole, shaft, pit, or trench into which the worker could fall. Workers also may encounter fragile or unstable surfaces that could suddenly give way and cause the worker to fall.
Responsibility of Contractors
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires Contractors to set up the jobsite in a manner that provides adequate protection for employees from the various fall hazards that may exist on the job.
Contractors are required to provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. Such program must enable workers to recognize fall hazards and train employees in procedures to be followed to minimize the hazards.
Contractors have the obligation to ensure that this training is conducted by a “competent person”. A “competent person” is defined as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them”. The proper use of real and effective “competent persons” can have the greatest impact on saving lives. Unfortunately, year–to-year, the failure of a Contractor to have a “competent person” is among the most frequently cited violations by OSHA. This failure results in a proportionate number of fall accidents and fatalities.